CenturyLink adds SDN, NFV to Defense Dept. contract service lineup

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CenturyLink has added SDN and NFV to its Defense Research and Engineering Network (DREN) III contract service lineup, signaling a trend that public sector agencies are advancing their own network virtualization efforts.

This deployment is being carried out with the U.S. Department of Defense High Performance Computing Modernization Program (DoD HPCMP). 

The service provider will provide a secure research and development, production-like environment for the implementation of SDN and NFV services at DREN sites, which will be some of the first to adopt these services.

RELATED: CenturyLink, LGS to upgrade DoD's DREN network to 40G

By conducting this project, CenturyLink said the DoD and DREN will establish the necessary security standards for the agency to use in its own implementation of SDN and NFV.

Driving flexibility, rapid service turnup

SDN and NFV implementation will also help the DoD and DREN move beyond traditional network technologies into a more dynamic, scalable software workload that allows the agency to more easily add new on-demand services and additional capacity.

What’s compelling for the DoD and DREN is that the agency will be able to reduce costs while accelerating service activation time by putting all of its applications—including MPLS, firewall, encryption and orchestration services—on software instead of expensive hardware platforms. The project will also help reduce the number of network devices DoD has to purchase and manage. 

“Adding SDN and NFV to our DREN contract allows DoD to implement new technologies faster and with a lower cost of entry,” said Erich Sanchack, SVP and and GM of Federal Solutions for CenturyLink, in a release.

As part of this process, CenturyLink is helping DoD and DREN implement this new technology to support their mission at four sites—two CenturyLink network sites in Sterling, Virginia, and Highlands Ranch, Colorado, as well as two DREN sites in Dayton, Ohio, and San Diego, California.

Strengthening DoD ties

Supplying SDN and NFV services to DREN could also strengthen the service provider’s bond with a forward-looking agency. 

In 2012, CenturyLink was awarded DREN III, a 10-year lifecycle indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract worth up to $750 million, by the U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency’s Defense Information Technology Contracting Organization (DISA DITCO).

Later in 2015, CenturyLink, in partnership with LGS Innovations, was commissioned by the DoD to upgrade the DREN to support 40 Gbps at five of its supercomputing locations.

DREN is a fiber-based network that connects five DoD supercomputing facilities to 4,300 scientists at more than 150 agencies and research sites within the U.S. Depending on the site, CenturyLink provides DREN speeds ranging from 50 Mbps to 40 Gbps.

CenturyLink delivers these speeds through a combination of Ethernet, internet protocol and optical wavelength services via a Virtual Private Local Area Network service that links defense scientists and engineers at leading research institutions, laboratories and test facilities.

Similar to fellow telcos AT&T and Verizon, CenturyLink is working to transform its existing core network into an SDN and NFV-based environment and plans to have full global virtualization coverage in its IP core network and data centers by 2018.

Bringing SDN and NFV to large public sector customers like DoD and DREN makes sense for CenturyLink because it leverages the same technology that the telco is using for its own network. But this deployment is customized to fit the DoD’s needs.

Today, CenturyLink operates what it calls a Programmable Services Backbone (PSB) platform that places cloud capabilities and NFV services at the edges of the network, enabling more efficient management and dynamic on-demand delivery of modular services. CenturyLink’s PSB is already live in more than 50 locations in seven countries.